Album review: Wanda Jackson and Jack White party on
The Party Ain’t Over
For her latest album, The Party Ain’t Over, Wanda Jackson, the first lady or queen of rockabilly (depending on who you ask), sets out to push her work into the 21st century. To that end, she’s enlisted the help of Jack White. White proves a nice complement to Jackson and introduces some much needed rough edges to what could have been an overly polished collection of standard rockabilly fare.
“Shakin’ All Over” wallows in a reverb heavy groove of sulky enjoyment, capturing with a sharper precision than even the original the thrilling pulse of romantic and erotic excitement. Jackson is credited with bringing a sexier image to the country scene of the ’50s and she certainly retains the ability to communicate an appealing sexual charge despite her later forays into the more sedate and chaste world of gospel (musically and ideologically speaking). The main source of this pull is an unnervingly innocent purr which still sounds clear and fresh despite a fair amount of vocal mileage.
For proof, look no further than her version of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m no Good.” Although it would be a bit of a stretch to say she improves upon the original, Jackson does seem to come into her own within the salty framework provided by Winehouse’s bruised lyrics and irresistible beats. White rightly pushes Jackson towards the sort of soul revival pop perfected by Winehouse, which provides a newer ground for Jackson to roam around, stretching her rockabilly sensibilities. The album slumps slightly in the back half when the numbers hew perhaps too closely to straightforward, though always well-executed covers.
The best moments of The Party Ain’t Over come when Jackson, with the guiding hand of White, really digs into her signature sound and lets her voice reach down into scratchy depths, then pulling back with just the right amount of sweetness. It’s a heady mix and works surprisingly well on everything from Bob Dylan to Elvis retreads. White’s biggest accomplishment is amplifying and clarifying the essential Wanda Jacksoness.
Ultimately, The Party Ain’t Over encapsulates the various incarnations of Jackson’s career past and present. She covers everything from gospel and soul to, of course, her signature mix of rock & roll and country & western classics. Through it all Jackson sustains her inimitable musical persona of feisty playfulness found at the core of rockabilly. Hopefully the party won’t be over anytime soon.
Wanda Jackson performs in St. Louis at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room on March 27.